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Thornton running for 5th District

CAMPAIGNING: Democrat Dee Thornton debates U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks in Anderson last October. Thornton has announced she is running for Brooks’ seat in 2020.

BY Carolyn Muyskens

cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

Democrat Dee Thornton is running again for Indiana’s 5th District seat in Congress.

She challenged sitting representative Susan Brooks in 2018 after winning the Democratic primary in her first ever bid for public office, earning 43 percent of the vote to Brooks’ 57 percent in the general election.

Brooks announced last month that she would not seek reelection in 2020 in order to spend more time with family.

Thornton, a Carmel businesswoman, said Brooks’ retirement wasn’t a factor in her decision to run.

“Obviously it makes things better when there’s an open seat, but I was very proud of the race that we ran in 2018. Had she decided to run again, I would still run again,” Thornton said.

Thornton is running on a similar platform of issues to her 2018 campaign – healthcare, gun control and the environment.

“The issues that we focused on in 2018, they haven’t gone away, the problems haven’t been solved,” Thornton said.

Democratic leaders believe Brooks’ retirement is an opening for the party.

State party communications director Phil Johnson said the Democratic Party is focused every day on winning the 5th District.

The district, which includes Marion, Anderson, parts of Kokomo, Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers and northern Indianapolis, is on a shortlist of districts across the country that the national party is targeting as possible pickup seats, he said. The Cook Political Report moved the 5th District out of the “Solid Republican” category and into “Lean Republican” after Brooks’ announcement last month.

According to state GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer, though, the district remains “comfortably Republican.”

“I believe that (the rating shift) reflects more a transition from an incumbent running versus an open seat. The demographics point to it being very solidly Republican as a baseline,” Hupfer said.

The chairman said the dynamics at the top of the ticket will be in the GOP’s favor in 2020, with “a very popular governor” running for reelection.

Hupfer didn’t name any potential Republican candidates but said party leadership was in conversation with possible candidates.

On the Democratic side, chemist and biologist Jennifer Christie says she is running on her website and Facebook page. A campaign kickoff event is planned for July 20.

Former State Rep. Christina Hale is also considering a run. 

“Opportunities to step up and serve don’t come around that often. People here need someone to put their needs before special interests. I’ve been looking at this race long and hard, and I’ll share my decision soon,” Hale said in an emailed statement. 

Thornton said she’s learned from her first campaign and plans to build on that momentum by making her official announcement in Marion County, where she defeated Brooks in 2018. The announcement is July 15.